Countdown for the launch. / sur

Meet the Malaga-born engineer taking part in Nasa's new mission to the moon

Carlos García-Galán, who has worked on the Orion Project for 16 years, is excited but calm despite the last-minute postponement of the launch of the unmanned spacecraft today, Monday 29 August

SUSANA ZAMORA Malaga

The planned launch of the Nasa's Artemis 1 mission to the moon has been postponed this Monday after technicians detected a problem in one of the engines of the main stage of the rocket. The mission will now take off at the earliest on Friday after today's 13.44 (CET) launch to test all the systems of the Orion spacecraft and SLS (Space Launch System) rocket was suspended. It is the biggest rocket ever constructed (it is 111 metres tall and weighs 130 tonnes), and it was due to be launched it into space to travel thousands of kilometres to orbit the moon.

For Carlos García-Galán from Malaga, who studied Space Sciences and Aerospace Engineering at the Florida Institute of Technology and went to work for Nasa when he was just 23, this is project is a dream come true.

His years in the mission control centre at the International Space Station in Houston have trained him for extreme situations and how to control the anxiety over something of this magnitude. “You’re concentrating on so many things at once that you don’t have time to get nervous,” he says.

Carlos García-Galán at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. / SUR

The Artemis programme aims to take man to the moon again and set up a base camp in which the crew can live for up to two months.

This first flight is unmanned, a rehearsal for the next one in 2024 (Artemis II) which will have astronauts on board, including a woman. On that trip they will also remain in lunar orbit and it will not be until 2025 (Artemis III) that the Orion spacecraft will land on the moon 56 years after Neil Armstrong did the same.

“Not since the Apollo 11 mission have we done anything like this,” said García-Galán. “We still remember that as something gigantic and when I realise that I have participated in a programme that is going to be transcendental for NASA, space exploration and humanity, I feel really emotional,” he said.

On its mission, the Orion will travel a total of 2.1 million kilometres and complete three lunar orbits, one of which will take it as close as 97 kilometres to the surface of the moon. The mission will end when the spacecraft lands in the Pacific off the coast of San Diego.